Memoir, Nonfiction

Gift From the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I’ve said it before…I love being in a book club.  I love being exposed to books that I’ve never heard of before, only to find a book that I have a deep connection with.

Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, is one of those books.

Everything I knew about her was in relation to her husband, Charles Lindbergh.  I knew that he was the first pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic.  I knew that their first child was kidnapped and murdered.

Before getting into the book, let me establish a timeline:

Anne Morrow Lindbergh was born in 1906.  When she was 23, in 1929, she married Charles Lindbergh.  His solo flight across the Atlantic happened 2 years before they were married, in 1927.

In 1932, their first child, Charles A. Lindbergh Jr, who was 20 months old, was kidnapped from their home and the child’s body was found 2 months later. The Lindberghs (who would eventually have 5 additional children) moved to England, then France, and then back to the US in 1938.  After their return, they lived in Maine, Michigan, Connecticut, Switzerland, and Hawaii, constantly seeking a quiet life.

Anne wrote Gift from the Sea in 1955 and won many awards for her writing. Charles died in Hawaii in 1974 at the age of 72 and is buried there.  Anne, incredibly, lived to the age of 94 and just died in 2001 in Vermont.

Why the timeline?  Because when you know about what this woman has endured and experienced, it makes this book all the more amazing.

Gift from the Sea was written while Anne was on a solitary trip to a beach cottage that she had enjoyed as a child.  No husband, no children, no phone, TV or radio.  Just the ebb and flow of the waves outside her door and the shells left behind on the sand.  Each shell a gift from the sea.  And so she began to do what most of would.  She began collecting them.  And so began her journey of introspection.

What follows is a book of such depth and timelessness that, much like the scriptures, you can open it to any random page and find incredible words of wisdom.

Using the shells she finds on the beach, Anne (I call her by her first name because she really feels like a friend) takes her reader through the path of life.  She focuses mostly on women and the many hats they wear as wives and mothers.  She talks about the need for women to define themselves beyond their duties to their families.  She talks about the “dance” of a marital relationship and its desire to evolve over time.  She stresses the need for spouses to enjoy time together away from their children, and even to enjoy time alone away from each other, as a way to fill our cups and find ourselves in order to return to our families and give them someone who is more whole and more at peace.

Considering the time period when she wrote this, I found her ideas to be revolutionary.  A 49 year old housewife in 1955 talking about going on trips by herself is unusual, to say the least.  But as she explores the paradoxes within womanhood, such as our need to give and yet our complaints when we feel that pieces of us are being taken, it make a lot more sense.  She also talks about how we choose certain complications in our lives when we dream of simplicity.  This is so true!

Like all great books, Gift from the Sea gives something different to different readers, which was evident during our book club discussion last night.  The young mother felt like someone understood her frenzied life raising several children.  The newlywed (me) loved the part where she talks about the ever-changing phases in relationships.  The women in their retirement years loved how she looked back on her life with satisfaction and appreciation, despite its trials.  And the interesting thing is that she never mentions her husband, her lost child, or singles out her children, except to mention them as a group “my children.”

I highly recommend this book, especially for women.  Don’t let its age discourage you.  Her ideas are as fresh and as timeless as if it were just written. And even though we do not read it while at a small beach cottage, her writing is so beautiful that you can almost hear the waves outside your window.

9/10 Stars

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